The holiday season for us was rather hectic, and served as something of a distraction to our ill-fated vacation plans. We made multiple trips up and back to Boise, Salt Lake, Logan and Orem for various festivities and family functions. The finale to our holidays was spending a few days in Phoenix with Uncle David while Justin and his brother Steven attended the Fiesta Bowl to watch Boise State play.
When the holidays were finally over, and things started to return to "normal" we were reminded of a hotel room we had bought near the Grand Canyon on January 15th. We talked it over, and finally decided that there was no sense in not using what we had already paid for, so we decided to plan a vacation to Arizona over the long weekend. We reserved a rental car, and then busied ourselves reading up on all the things there are to see and do in Arizona in the winter. We had decided that we wanted to see a few overlooks of the Grand Canyon and then continue on to the Petrified Forest National Park a couple of hours away. That's really all that we had agreed on doing.
Wednesday night I got out a few sets of underwear and some socks to pack, and then got interrupted. Justin came in the bedroom, saw my things sitting on the edge of the bed, assumed I hadn't put my laundry away, and thoughtfully put them back in the drawers for me. That was the closest either one of us came to doing any prior packing for our Arizona excursion. The next morning we were still undecided on whether or not we were going to camp in Southern Arizona. That was Justin's idea, so he had upgraded the rental car to a small SUV in order to accommodate our camping equipment. In the midst of some packing that should have probably been more frenzied than it was, we paused to make a second hotel reservation out near the Petrified Forest National Park, so at least we had 2 nights of lodging determined for our 5 day trip. Justin placed the last of the camping equipment in the car, and I came out to the parking lot with Vivian just as the car "locked itself" with the keys inside. After spending several days with this car I feel confident in asserting that this car does not automatically just lock itself, but this is what was communicated to me as I stood there with Vivian and observed my husband fly into something of a rage over the incident. I handed him my phone, told him we'd be back upstairs in the apartment and to let us know when AAA had arrived to unlock the door. For the record, they are super fast about getting someone out there to assist, and all is well that ends well.
We left around 2pm. The drive was relatively uneventful, other than the fact that driving through the Kaibab National Forest in the middle of a winter night was an eerie experience because of how isolated you feel. We drove through the dark mountains for miles never passing another car, and were relieved when that part of the trip was behind us. We finally arrived in Williams, AZ a few minutes before 11, and discovered the town to be much bigger than we had anticipated. We had not bothered to look up directions to our hotel, assuming that it would be easy to spot in a small town. We drove around for 20 minutes or so before I spotted a McDonald's a few blocks away and suggested to Justin that we make our way there, and use their free wi-fi to look up the address online. Fortuitously our hotel happened to be across the street from the McDonald's, so we were spared the hassle of trying to look it up. Unfortunately, we decided to check-in first, and then report back to the McDonald's for dinner, since it appeared to be the only establishment in town that was still open at that hour. We were wrong, it closed at 11. We had to settle for some sandwiches that Justin had hastily prepared before we left. He had hoped to save them for when we were camping. He had made four, we ate two of them.
The next morning we woke up late and made our way out to the visitor's center where we watched an IMAX film that has convinced me that I would someday like to go on a guided rafting excursion through the Grand Canyon. Next we went to the Canyon, and to be honest, it was underwhelming. I expected something more spectacular. I'm not sure in what way I wanted it to be even more spectacular, because it is beautiful, and enormous, but I suppose I just simply felt that it had been over hyped. All the same, after having a heated little debate in the parking lot about where to go for lunch, we elected to eat our last set of camping sandwiches and then visited a few overlooks.
|My people on the rim of the Grand Canyon|
For the second day in a row, Vivian napped in the car all day, and was ready to go at an absurd hour the next morning. The upside is that it got us out the door earlier the second morning, and we took our time doing a few short hikes, that were more like walks, in the Petrified Forest National Park.
|Vivian clutching a little chunk of petrified wood. We did put it back.|
|So those rocks all over in the background...they're not rocks. I mean, they are rocks, but they're petrified pieces of wood, which are technically rocks now.|
|She loves any day that she gets to spend the whole day with Dad.|
|This is a place we stopped along the way called Becker Butte Lookout. We thought it was better scenery than anything we saw in the Grand Canyon.|
We continued our driving south. Really far south. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument borders Mexico. As we pulled into the town just outside of the monument, Ajo, AZ we started to question the wisdom of this trip. First of all, the area was not really that pretty, but even more worrisome were the barred windows on every establishment in town and the bullet holes in the buildings of the town square, where we stopped for lunch. The weather however was perfect. It was a sunny 80 degree day outside.
|Vivian was mesmerized with the flag in the town square.|
It was Sunday, so we had decided not to do anything too ambitious on the Sabbath. We took a 21-mile scenic drive through the monument. The conditions of the road left a lot to be desired, but it was a one-way road, and we had to go so slow that Justin pulled Vivian out of her carseat and let her sit on his lap in the front. She loved it. The park was astonishingly beautiful, more than we had anticipated, or initially realized. Our photos will never do this place justice.
After that we went on a stroll called the Desert View.
|One of the best stretches of road|
|My people with an Organ Pipe Cactus.|
|Vivian and I with a Saguaro Cactus.|
|Looking back at the campground|
We returned to our campsite in time for one of the best sunsets I've ever seen. We promised ourselves that some day we will be back to spend more than a day there. We were very sorry to leave and start the long drive home Monday morning. We broke up the long day in the car with a visit back to Montezuma's Castle. This time they were open.
It was not the most exciting thing I've ever seen, but gave us a nice break from the driving. We stopped again at the Navajo Bridge that's somewhere out near the Utah border.
|Our baby is astonishingly patient with all of our driving.|
We pulled over again to take a few pictures of the sunset against the Vermillion Cliffs. Again, our pictures are sadly inadequate.
We made it home around midnight, and as soon as I set foot out of the car I immediately wished that I could somehow transport myself back to the warmth of Southern Arizona. I love the desert, and I love it even more when it's offering me a break from Utah's cold winter weather.